And the Dove Goes To...

By Jenny Bennett | managing editor,
Posted: Wed, 04/13/2011 - 15:36

Excitement has been building since the February 16th announcement of the 42nd Annual Gospel Music Award nominations. Fans have been voting online and we editors have been scouring the lists and checking them twice to begin the process of prediction.

It’s an annual tradition here at gmc, but we’d be lying if we said we were really good at it. We know the music well enough, and we’ve certainly logged our share of time in the music press pit, but we’re not prophets. Far from it. In fact, last year’s predictions were, um (insert sheepish grin here), less than stellar, with only a 35 percent accuracy rate. With that said, we’re thinking the odds can only go up from here.

Christa Banister and Andy Argyrakis, both senior editors here at, senior content strategist Melissa Riddle Chalos and managing editor Jenny Bennett, all weigh in with predictions in eight major categories, including ‘Artist of the Year’ and ‘New Artist of the Year,’ the fan vote categories.

How do your predictions stack up with ours? Leave us your comments below. Log in.

Artist of the Year: A big split down the middle between a longtime Christian music heavyweight and gospel music’s biggest chart-topper ever. The fan vote could make a big difference in this the biggest Dove Award of all.

Whoa, I’m experiencing a major case of deja vu with this category, considering it basically came down to TobyMac vs. Chris Tomlin last year, too. So will it be Tomlin the newlywed worship leader with all those congregational favorites, or the span-the-genres talent of TobyMac? Well, I think TobyMac was robbed last year, and the voters will make up for it by honoring him this year. Thanks to another crowd-pleasing, radio favorite set Tonight, the launching of several great new artists on Gotee and joining fellow industry heavyweights, Michael W. Smith and Third Day on one of the year’s best tours, Toby's once again deserving. And I think that one-two punch is more than enough to score the evening’s biggest Dove. –Christa Banister

He’s won before and he’s likely to win again given an endless onslaught of artistic ingenuity and some of the most contagious beats to ever come out of the Christian scene. –Andy Argyrakis

Marvin Sapp
Last year, Casting Crowns took this coveted category, but they’re not on the list this year, making this category anybody’s guess. I’d love to see Marvin Sapp tattoo diversity on the Dove this year. Why? Because Sapp’s Here I Am marked the highest gospel (or Christian) debut EVER on Billboard’s Top 200 (ever in its 54-year history) in March of last year. Did I mention ‘ever’? He was BET’s ‘Best Gospel Artist’ in 2010, a GRAMMY nominee and the ‘Artist of the Year’ at this year’s Stellar Awards? I’m giving Sapp my prediction, but I suspect the winner will be the safer choice of TobyMac or Chris Tomlin. –Melissa Riddle Chalos

Marvin Sapp
As Melissa pointed out, Sapp’s eighth CD, Here I Am, was the highest ever debuting gospel CD on Billboard’s Top 200 chart (the #2 position), so it’s easy to see that his music speaks to people. Sapp’s continued persistence of the Lord after losing the love of his life, MaLinda, the mother of their three children and the trusted manager of his career, after her courageous battle with cancer, is a compelling example of a deep and abiding faith that will continue to be an inspiration to many. For these reasons he’s certainly Artist of the Decade, at least in my book –Jenny Bennett

New Artist of the Year: Chris August gets two of our four predictions in this category, but who among this group has the most career longevity ahead? It’s almost impossible to say.

Audrey Assad
A huge winner with critics and her fellow artists thanks to her memorable debut, she’s definitely the most high-profile of the group. And given her thoughtful, creative approach to songwriting, I’m sure that career of hers has legs, meaning I’m guessing she’ll be up for the bigger accolades sooner rather than later. –CB

Chris August
The deeply vulnerable and often times autobiographical singer/songwriter is amongst this year’s most compelling and comforting fresh faces. –AA

forever JONES
I’m gonna bet big here that Chris August and Audrey Assad will cancel each other out this year and that forever JONES, the seriously talented modern family band, will be the big surprise and take the Dove for ‘New Artist.’ After all, their #1 hit “He Wants It All” landed forever JONES a much-deserved GRAMMY nomination this year. Why not give the Dove to a group that represents the very best of what Gospel music should be about: faith, family and forever? –MRC

Chris August
If critical acclaim is any indication, Chris August and Audrey Assad each have a good chance at winning this. They’ve both contributed something truly unique to the genre. Then again, so have the other nominees, particularly John Mark McMillan and forever JONES in my opinion. But I do think Assad and August have a level of support across the board that just may give them the edge, and of the two I have a feeling August’s success at radio may be the deciding factor. –JB

Song of the Year: The predictions are split four ways.

“Lead Me” by Sanctus Real
Color me shocked when Tenth Avenue North won last year. I’m thinking pretty much no one could’ve predicted that. So I’m going to go out on a limb this year and say that Sanctus Real will pull off a surprise victory of their own with ”Lead Me,” a radio favorite with a phenomenal story behind it. –CB

“Get Back Up” by TobyMac
Besides being one of this year’s catchiest singles, it’s also one of the most inspiring and energetic. –AA

“Starry Night” by Chris August
This is always a tough category because the nominees stretch across the genres from southern gospel to pop to rock to worship. Given that Matthew West is, mysteriously missing AGAIN from this and most lists (what is up with that?!) my first inclination is to toss my prediction over to either “Our God” by Tomlin/Myrin/Redman/Reeves or to “All of Creation” by MercyMe/Bannister/Muckala. But I’m gonna stick my neck out this year and tip my hat to singer/songwriter Chris August for this memorable, beautiful ode to the Creator. –MRC

“Beautiful, Beautiful” by Francesca Battistelli
As Melissa pointed out, this is an especially tough category; they’re all important songs. First I narrowed my choices to “All of Creation,” “Beautiful, Beautiful,” “Our God,” and “Starry Night” because they’ve each made a big impression simply through the messages they impart. “Starry Night” could be the surprise here, but as delightful as that would be, I’m just not sure the song or the artist is a household name... yet. In searching for the song that possibly had the biggest impact this year, it’s probably going to be either “Beautiful, Beautiful” (at radio) or “Our God” (in church & conference settings). Both songs have tremendous capacity to touch people where they are. Ultimately I think Battistelli’s song will take it. –JB

Female Vocalist of the Year: The three female editors agree: it’s year two for Francesca. But Andy Argyrakis says ‘not so fast...’

Francesca Battistelli
No sophomore slump here – Francesca Battistelli will repeat, thanks to fabulous new songs like This Is the Stuff. –CB

Natalie Grant
Hands down the widest range and most powerful pipes, not to mention a socially conscious songwriter and activist. –AA

Francesca Battistelli
Another tough category with such great voices represented, but if I want a better prediction accuracy score this year, I’m gonna have to narrow it down to Franny or Natalie. And the odds are that if Franny got it last year, and she has a really fine new record out right now, she’ll take it again this year. Granted, Natalie produced another baby this year, so she gets points for that big accomplishment and for the cuteness of her third baby girl. Still, I think Franny will take the prize again this year. –MRC

Francesca Battistelli
I’m going along with the girls here to say I do think Natalie Grant has passed the proverbial baton to Battistelli when it comes to repeating a win in this category. Grant took it four years in a row, and given Battistelli seems to be following in her footsteps with continued success, I think she has a good chance of taking it this year for the second time. –JB

Male Vocalist of the Year: Will it be Heath’s again this year, or will other, less likely guys take it?

Brandon Heath
Brandon Heath has owned this category these past few years, and no doubt about it, he’s going to win again. If anything his voice is only getting better with every new album. Need proof? Listen to Leaving Eden and you’ll definitely agree. –CB

Jason Crabb
He can sing country, soul, southern gospel and pop, nailing each note out of the park no matter what the style. –AA

Brandon Heath
My best guess is that the most popular POP guy will, once again, take this prize, making Brandon Heath the winner. After all, he won last year, and arguably his newest release is the best of his career to date. If voting were contingent upon which male vocalist whose work spans the subgenres of Christian and Gospel music and beyond, I’d have no choice but to pull the lever for Jason Crabb. –MRC

Doug Anderson
I’m going out on the limb here to say that the artist who had everyone scratching their heads this year (simply because as one-fourth of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Doug’s name had never been front and center before), is going to take it. He’s coming out with a solo record early next month, which I take as a sign of things to come, and he’s hardly missed a note in nearly 11 years as baritone for one of southern gospel’s most popular and accomplished groups. Plus it’s just nice to see someone who’s used to blending in stepping out into the limelight. –JB

Group of the Year: Three to one that the ‘Outsiders’ will win big this year, but could the lone dissenter have a point?

One of the best surprises of last year was when NEEDTOBREATHE won this much-deserved honor. And considering they’re supporting arguably the biggest act in mainstream music that’s not Lady Gaga on tour this summer, namely Miss Taylor Swift, winning back-to-back trophies would be well-deserved. But I don’t think that accolade alone is enough for a repeat “Group of the Year” honor as far as the voters are concerned. Instead, I predict they’ll opt for an old favorite MercyMe, who had a bigger presence on Christian radio this year. –CB

The artistry continues to mount with each album released and the group’s crossover appeal is expanding every day (thanks in part to an upcoming tour alongside Taylor Swift). –AA

A southern gospel group hasn’t taken this award since the Bill Gaither Trio in 1980, so I’m guessing that neither Ernie Haase & Signature Sound nor Gaither Vocal Band are shoe-ins. Neither Tenth Avenue North nor MIKESCHAIR nor Sidewalk Prophets have, in my opinion, made a big enough creative mark as yet. And MercyMe, as high profile as they are, didn’t elicit the groundswell of applause that NEEDTOBREATHE got at last year’s Dove Awards, despite the latter’s self-described ‘outsider’ position. With the upcoming Taylor Swift tour and blessing, NEEDTOBREATHE is simply going to skyrocket. If they don’t win, the poor Dove will be looking for a cave to hide in by next year. –MRC

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Given the above rationale of a member of this group getting a nod in the Male Vocalist category, I’m wondering if that could be a clue as to the industry’s overall recognition of what has proven to be one of southern gospel’s most beloved quartets. –JB

Producer of the Year: A four way split here means that three somebodies’ prediction stats are
going to suffer.

Jason Ingram & Rusty Varenkamp
Yeah, the names may not instantly ring a bell, but this dynamic duo has been involved with practically every Christian artist you know and love. Not only are they a whiz with writing lyrics, but they really know how to push each and every artist they work with into exciting new musical territory. –CB

Ian Eskelin
The pure-bred pop hits keep coming and there’s simply no one who can deliver with the wit and candor of this celebrated All Star United leader. –AA

Wayne Haun
Okay, I know this will blow my percentage, but seriously, give it to the guy already. I know you don’t know his name, and unless you’re a die-hard southern gospel fan (which I am not), you probably don’t know his work either. But if you looked at Haun’s body of work, you’d have to ‘get’ the fact that this guy deserves the ‘Producer’ Dove, the one bird that’s eluded him. He’s had 60 nominations and 13 wins for various categories, but he’s never won this category. It’s time. –MRC

Ed Cash
With all the buzz about Chris August’s debut album, No Far Away, and given its nomination in the Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year, plus the nomination of the single, “Starry Night,” in two categories including “Song of the Year,” I’m going to guess Cash gets pinned with this honor. August has obviously gotten recognition as an artist without the help of production, but I think the industry’s respect for this project as a whole could be the magic ingredient. –JB

Special Event Album of the Year: All for one, one for all. We’re all in this prediction together here at

Passion: Awakening
For “Special Event of the Year” album, my sentimental pick is Sweetpea’s Song for Girls since my little two-and-a-half-year-old niece, Adelyn, absolutely loves singing these songs along with the Veggies. But hands down, I think the Dove will go to “Passion: Awakening.” Not only does it feature every modern worship leader that everyone knows and loves, but the Passion movement only continues to thrive as these artists continue to write the songs the Church loves to sing – many of which are featured right here on Awakening. –CB

Passion: Awakening
With the world’s most treasured worship leaders collaborating together (including Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Hillsong United and many more), this project’s a shoe-in, while also serving as one of this year’s most spiritually uplifting albums. –AA

Passion: Awakening
Passion will probably take it, but if I could hand the award out myself, I’d mix it up a bit and give it to the rockers, BEC’s totally special rock compilation, Rock of Ages, featuring Kutless, Jeremy Camp and Seventh Day Slumber.  Then again, VeggieTales’ Sweetpea’s Songs for Girls was really sweet, and the very thought of a vegetable taking home the golden bird makes me happy (yes, I’m that easy to please). –MRC

Passion: Awakening
Simply because of the element of familiarity here, not to mention the impact the Passion movement has had, this one’s a no-brainer. That said, I don’t really know much about the other nominees in this category, so there could very well be something special there I’m just not aware of. –JB

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